Now I have to be completely honest. I was excited to see Arsenio Hall come back to late night TV. The summer of 1991 when I first started watching and at the time I was heavily entrenched in that time frame’s R&B music and especially hip-hop, which has some of its finest moments and artists out there in that time. They always ended up being on his show. I still remember seeing one of the two times Prince took over the show around the release of his O(+> album. It was exciting, since we saw so little of Prince in the media. But watching a few shows of the *new* Arsenio was a bit strange, as he seems to be calling more on favors of old friends from the heyday than worrying about what’s current now. That can be good or that can be bad. But it hit me, why doesn’t he get Prince on the show? A week after realizing this, Arsenio announces that Prince is taking over the show. How’s that for granting a wish?
Prince is really having a resurgence as of late. His new all-girl band 3rdEyeGirl has definitely pushed him back into form. They are primarily a rock & roll band that is versed in funk. Rather than a jazzy funk band like the New Power Generation has mostly become. Not to knock NPG, as there are some powerhouse players in the band. It’s just that there hasn’t been much forward motion in Prince’s sound in the past decade. Prince has always been at his best when he’s toying with new ideas and listening to others, and for some reason, the three girls in 3rdEyeGirl have his ear right now.
The entire show was top notch. Prince debuted a new song “FUNKNROLL” which really had some bite and a real nasty groove. This had *better* be on his next album! Then after a monologue, Prince comes out on the stage sporting his latest look – a full blown electrified afro and faux-fur coat like some kind of thrift-shop couture. The interview was actually pretty decent. Prince never gave a release date though for Plectrum Electrum, but did talk about that he is working on grouping songs that work together, and that he is “old school” and wants to make albums even though it is now a singles market. He mentioned one new song sure to be on the album called “The Breakdown”. I must say Arsenio did a great job of asking questions about some of the hot topics like Prince’s opinions about technology and the internet. Especially considering he’s gone from the infamous quote “The internet is dead” to now using social media and YouTube to promote his new music, fairly successfully given some of the follies of trying this in previous years.
After a break, Prince and 3EG broke into a rousing rendition of “She’s Always In My Hair” (the b-side of 1985’s “Raspberry Beret” and a live favorite of the last decade). Then he took questions for the audience, showing that yes… he can *actually* laugh with us and not take it all so seriously sometimes (one of my complaints of the last… oh much of his career is that sometimes the guy should lighten up a bit). Watching the show was actually one of the more fun interviews I think I have ever seen with Prince. No major soapbox. No being angry at people. Just talking about a love of the music. After a very funny segment where Prince acted as the middleman for a breakup over the phone for a guy and his indecisive girlfriend, the stage was given over to Liv Warfield, an NPG member that has a solo album out now called The Unexpected, and she performed “Soul Lifted”. I was really impressed! I had never heard her before this.
To end the show on a fun yet bittersweet note, Prince had the NPG, including a ton of horn players all on stage to perform “Mutiny”, or as I call it “Mutiny Castles”, as it is a mashup of 2 songs from his past. First, “Mutiny”, recorded by The Family in 1985, and then the melody of “Ice Cream Castles”, a song written for The Time’s album of the same name. The unofficial story behind the song is where you find the sting. A couple years back, both The Time and The Family wanted to record new music. Prince refused to let either use their original band names, being that Prince wrote the material and performed most of the music. Fitting my last article was about Milli Vanilli right? Anyways, the bands did play the material live in concert and were great musicians besides the fact. So The Time recorded Condensate as “The Original 7even” (get the 7 reference there? jab!), and The Family took the name f*Deluxe. It is pretty obvious from the new reworked lyrics to “Mutiny” (“taking back the ship”, “should’ve had a little more love”) that someone was bitter. However, two years after an MP3 of the live rehearsal was released through social media (Soundcloud? I forget), this song is even tighter and definitely the jam! The horn section especially is sooo on point! It reminds me of why I loved “Sexy MF” even.
All in all it was well worth watching. My hopes are really high for his upcoming album Plectrum Electrum, whenever it finally comes out. Until then, at least Prince is breaking his silence and putting some great music out there again.